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NEW DAY SATURDAY

CDC Pushes For Schools To Reopen In New Guidance; Hospitalizations Hitting Levels Not Seen Since April Peak; White House Denies That Trump Reversed Course On Virus; First Phase 3 Vaccine Trial In U.S. Expected To Begin Next Week; North Carolina City Confronts Racism With Reparations For Its Black Residents; Fighting COVID-19 Taking A Toll On Health Care Workers; Tropical Storm Hanna To Make Landfall As Hurricane In Texas. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired July 25, 2020 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[07:00:20]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will probably unfortunately get worse before it gets better.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: We are already starting to see some plateauing in these critically four states.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're drowning, we're absolutely drowning here. It's just overwhelming number of cases.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's just so much uncertainty and I think nobody really knows what's going on. It's kind of like almost like a downward spiral.

TRUMP: Being at the school, being on the campus is very, very important.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, MEMBER OF THE WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: I think we still need to learn a lot about children getting infected and whether they either spread or not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not how I want to go back and I want to go back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Oxford vaccine produces is a strong immunity response in patients.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the first time we've had an anti-vaccine movement before we've had the vaccine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Saturday morning to you. It's July 25th. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us this morning. And I'm Abby Phillip in for Christi Paul this morning. Amid the growing debate about reopening schools in the United States, new coronavirus records are here, and around the world remind us it won't be easy to do that.

BLACKWELL: Yes. The World Health Organization says that a record number of new cases were reported in a 24-hour period yesterday, 284,196. That's one day. And for the fourth straight day, the U.S. reported more than 1000 daily coronavirus deaths.

And the CDC says that reopening schools for in-person, in-classroom learning in most of the country is safe. But the agency says that schools and areas where more than five percent or the transmission, is about five percent that they should consider staying closed or at least delaying for a while.

PHILLIP: And the Food and Drug Administration says it's giving emergency use authorization to the first coronavirus test that is for people without symptoms. The FDA calls it a possible game changer in helping reopen schools and businesses and crucially, keeping them open.

So, to get started this morning, let's go to CNN's Polo Sandoval in New York City for a look at where we stand nationwide. Polo, experts are saying that they're seeing a plateau, some good news, cases in some of these states, and but there are also new records of cases in other states. What are we seeing around the country?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Abby adding to that, we can start our national look on the West Coast where California has been added to the list of the three states hit the hardest since the start of the pandemic. Of course, Florida and New York, the other two out with both of those states seen well over 400 cases at some point.

And Texas is not far behind, seeing close to 380,000 cases. Now, when it comes to the Lone Star State, there are some parts of that state that have seen at least some form of a plateau, but there are other parts of Texas where health officials are making very difficult life and death decisions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANDOVAL: Six months into the pandemic in some of the nation's coronavirus stats are going from bad to worse. As a nation surpassed four million COVID cases and over 145,000 deaths this week, California beat out New York as the state with the most infections to date.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): When we began to reopen our economy, we so, we focused so much on when, but we didn't focus enough on how to not only do it but to educate individuals.

SANDOVAL: On Friday, California recorded its highest number of COVID deaths at hard-hit L.A. County. Health officials are warning the virus may soon become a leading cause of death among residents. COVID cases seem to be plateauing and some of Texas's largest cities,

but in one small South Texas border county, patients may be sent home to die if a hospital ethics and triage committee deems them too sick to recover. The local county judge says, their hospital is at capacity.

That's also a common struggle for health facilities in Florida, which saw nearly 84 percent increase in COVID hospitalizations since July 4th, as statistics had record breaking highs in the south and west. Parts of the Northeast are experiencing lows not seen since March. On Friday, New York recorded its lowest number of hospitalizations in nearly four months.

And with the approaching school year just weeks away, parents and teachers facing uncertainty about when or if in-person classes will resume amid a push to open schools.

LENNY CURRY (R), MAYOR OF JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA: Kids ought to have the option to learn in-person and virtually. I believe they ought to have choices. If teachers have vulnerable immune systems, they ought to have options as well. But we have to get our kids back into school in a safe way.

FAUCI: If you are going to bring the children back.

[07:05:07]

SANDOVAL: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, urging school districts not to rush to any decisions.

FAUCI: There are a lot of people with underlying conditions out there. So, I think when you talk about forcing teachers to come back to school, you better be careful about that and make sure you pay attention to a keeping them safe and keeping them healthy.

SANDOVAL: Fauci not ruling out outdoor teaching as a way to get students back to school.

FAUCI: I wear this all the time.

SANDOVAL: And recommending face coverings be worn in the classroom.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANDOVAL: Now, back here in New York State, though, the numbers are generally trending, trending very well here. There is a concern that was highlighted by Governor Cuomo yesterday what he described as a significant increase over a short period of time with young people testing positive for the coronavirus mainly in their 20s and up to 30 years old.

The governor directly linking that, or at least blaming that in part to some violations that we've seen in some in some restaurants and bars throughout New York City. So, the governor is saying that there will be full enforcement this weekend, a warning to party-ers.

BLACKWELL: Polo Sandoval for us in New York. Polo, thanks so much. Let's go to the White House now. Sarah Westwood is there.

So, the White House says specifically, the Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, is saying that there's no chain, Sarah, in the President's approach to the pandemic, although we all know that the President a couple of months ago said that some people wore masks to show their disapproval of him.

He teased former Vice President Joe Biden for wearing one, now he's calling mask is patriotic. He demanded a full convention. Now, he's canceling the Jacksonville portion. I mean, so we're seeing with our own eyes, anyone who has a memory that stretches back eight weeks knows that that's not true.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: All right, Victor, the shift in the President's tone this week was plainly evident the president acknowledging for example, that coronavirus is going to get worse before it gets better. That's after weeks of him trying to paint a rosier picture of the progress that America has made to fight off this public health crisis.

And as you mentioned, Victor, the President also canceling the Jacksonville portion of the GOP convention next month. That was going to be something the President wanted as a big celebration of his journey towards his reelection battle. He wanted to have thousands of people packed in there much more like a traditional convention.

And he had even mocked Joe Biden for having a scaled down convention mocks the Democrats for going that route early announcing they were going to the president though canceling those events in Jacksonville is a big acknowledgement that the situation in Florida has gotten much, much worse since the events were moved to that state.

The President also acknowledging that some school districts are going to need to stay closed in the fall this after the President had spent weeks pushing a one-size-fit-all reopening plan for schools across the country. But despite all of that, the White House is arguing at the President has been consistent in his coronavirus messaging.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President has been consistent on this. He wore a mask back at the Ford facility, he carries around in his pocket. He showed it to you multiple times. He hasn't changed, in fact, and just speaking on COVID, generally, the way I've heard him talk privately in the Oval Office is the way he's talking out here.

The only thing that changed is the president taking dozens, and dozens, and dozens of your questions each and every day because he felt the best way to get information to the American people was for him to be out here on answering your questions and providing this directly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WESTWOOD: Now, sources tell CNN that the President's cratering poll numbers played a big role in him bringing back his daily briefings and pivoting more towards a serious coronavirus messaging strategy. Aides and allies were finally able to persuade the president to more forcefully endorse masks and returned to the podium as he promotes a more serious pandemic response, Victor and Abby.

PHILLIP: Cratering poll numbers but not rising death and case numbers. Sarah Westwood, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: So, the U.S. government is backing several different vaccine candidates through Operation Warp Speed. And for the first time in the U.S., one of the panels, one of the attempts is entering phase three trials next week. 30,000 volunteers are expected to take part possible vaccine being developed by the Research Center in partnership with biotech company, Moderna.

So, let's bring in now Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath. She is the President and CEO of Bio, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. Dr. McMurry, we thank you so much for being back on CNN and good morning to you.

DR. MICHELLE MCMURRY-HEATH, CEO, BIOTECHNOLOGY INNOVATION ORGANIZATION: Good morning to you.

BLACKWELL: So, let's start here with Moderna. Several 30,000 volunteers, test subjects, at dozens of locations across the country, give us an idea of who they're looking for, who's going to be participating and what this next phase one will try to determine?

MCMURRY-HEATH: Well, we have very, very good news this week. In addition to just Moderna, there are two other vaccine candidates that are looking incredibly promising and they're getting close to their phase two trials.

[07:10:07]

Now, what is the phase three trial mean? First, when, when I was an official back at the FDA, we paid very close attention to the fact that you had to go in very distinct stages. The very first stage, you're trying to make sure that the new drug is safe. And the second stage, you're testing it in a small number of patients to see if it's behaving as really as the way you would hope it to behave.

And in phase three, you take it to a large number of patients so that you're sure that it works across the population. And that's what we're seeing now with three of the promising vaccine candidates. So, two of the phase three trials will be kicked off next week. And this is incredibly exciting news because it means we're entering the homestretch of getting vaccines ready for the American public.

BLACKWELL: OK, so homestretch blue sky world best case scenario, when could the average American who's not you know, a first responder or a brain surgeon, get this vaccine if this this third phase shows that it is, it is safe and effective?

MCMURRY-HEATH: Well, we at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization represent over 1,000 companies in the biotechnology space, everything from our very small biotech companies like Moderna, all the way up to our larger companies. And across the board, we're seeing an incredible acceleration of speed.

So, it's not uncommon to see a phase three trial last two or three years, but what's amazing in this case is that everyone has trained their sights on trying to crack the COVID code. And we are hoping to have vaccines that are accessible to the public by the spring of next year.

Now, the good news is also that we have panels of experts that are carefully working at how do we decide who should get the vaccine first, based on need, based on who is most vulnerable, and this is incredibly important. So, we really want the American public to know that the experts, the scientific leaders are taking this into account and trying to make sure that they get the doses out to the people who need them most first.

BLACKWELL: I want you to listen to something that former CDC Director Tom Frieden said, just overnight in this podcast that was posted about the anti-vaccine movement and what the, the country or actually the world will have to face in trying to vaccinate billions, potentially of people. Let's watch.

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TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: There's already too much suspicion and hesitancy about vaccines. And a way to address that is to just say it like it is and be sure that we're saying what we're doing, when we're doing it, what we're learning, when we're learning it. This is the first time we've had an anti-vaccine movement before we've had the vaccine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Doctor, do you think that there is a residual impact on potential resistance to the vaccine because this is happening so quickly with some overlapping of phases. I know that there will be, of course, the, the determination that anything gets to, to the people will be safe, but this is happening at an unprecedented speed.

MCMURRY-HEATH: The reason we're able to go at this speed is because our companies and our scientists have been focused so hard on trying to shift everything into fighting the COVID War. And it's an incredible testament to their round-the-clock dedication that we've made it to this point so soon, it's completely unprecedented. Dr. Frieden is incredibly wise and sage that we need clarity, transparency, and consistency when it comes to talking about vaccines.

I think if anything, the resistance that we're starting to see, among the public around the idea of a vaccine is because of the mixed messages they're receiving particularly from their leaders, so we need clarity. I mean, example of the mixed messages is just Friday, the administration and unveiled executive orders that could cripple the companies that are working to, to develop these vaccines and the treatments to COVID. And this is just dumbfounding timing, because we really need

everything trained on getting this right, and that's what our companies are singularly focused on, and that's what we want the American public to know.

BLACKWELL: The President in the White House would say that those executive orders which really don't have any much impact, potentially they could have some long down the line would be to by their framework, lower drug prices.

I want to step away from vaccines for a moment and then talk about therapeutics instead, because we know from Dr. Fauci he says that coronavirus will not be eradicated. What do we know about the progress on therapeutics, things to make this when people get it less consequential?

MCMURRY-HEATH: Well, therapeutic races also going very well. We're particularly seeing promising results around antibody-based therapies where you take antibodies from patients or from animals who've been exposed to coronavirus and then use those, expand them, use those in patients that are facing COVID. We need both therapeutics and vaccines.

[07:15:17]

We need a vaccine to prevent most people from getting COVID, but then we need good treatments if for some reason you do get COVID and come down with it or before the vaccine is available. So, it's important that we pursue these two aims immediately.

But I'll just take a brief issue with one of the things you mentioned, because the, the, the executive orders that came out on Friday actually can have an immediate chilling effect on the ability of our companies to really focus on doing their job, to focus on getting science out to patients, and to have the resources needed to make sure that they go at breakneck speed.

This has never been more important, and we need to be trained on it. There's a reason that 70 percent of the innovation is coming from small companies and more than 50 percent of the projects trained in fighting COVID are coming from the United States, because we have the innovation ecosystem that really supports that amazing ingenuity.

BLACKWELL: All right. Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, President and CEO of BIO, always good to have you as part of the conversation.

MCMURRY-HEATH: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Abby.

PHILLIP: And still to come, there really aren't many answers for parents and teachers right now about how they will return safely to school this fall. What is missing from the CDC's new guidelines for reopening that, head.

BLACKWELL: And the killing of George Floyd prompted protests across the country, across the world against police brutality, racism as well. And now in North Carolina, there's a city that's taken on the contentious issue of reparations, we will show you how.

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[07:20:59]

BLACKWELL: Well, this is the first of six days of events to celebrate the life of the late Congressman John Lewis. His body is now in route from Atlanta to Troy, Alabama. And later this morning, there will be a public service at Troy University. The celebration is the boy from Troy that's expected to include some remarks from several of his siblings. He will also lie in repose there at Troy University until this afternoon.

PHILLIP: And following those services, a motorcade will take Lewis' body to Selma, Alabama and a private ceremony will be held at Brown Chapel AMA Church starting at 7:00 p.m. He will lie in in repose there from 9pm until midnight. And on Monday, Lewis will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol rotunda here in Washington, D.C.

BLACKWELL: And of course, stay with CNN, we'll have live coverage of the events starting at 10:00 Eastern this morning.

PHILLIP: Now, the killing of George Floyd prompted nationwide protests against police brutality and racism, and CNN is continuing to put a spotlight on the struggle for racial justice in America. So, this week, I spent some time on the ground in North Carolina in a city that's taking on the contentious issue of reparations. Most people associate reparations with righting the wrongs of slavery. But in Asheville, North Carolina, they're taking a different approach, and they're seeking to address racial inequities that are far more recent.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: Tucked away in the deeply conservative Blue Ridge region of North Carolina. Asheville is a liberal oasis.

JULIE MAYFIELD, ASHEVILLE CITY COUNCIL: Asheville is by far the bluest dot west of Charlotte.

PHILLIP: But even here, this summer has been different.

MAYFIELD: The demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd's murder really were different. The momentum is like nothing we've ever felt before.

PHILLIP: Black Lives Matter signs are unmistakable in storefronts across the city and in the heart of downtown. So, what is this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a confederate monument and it looks this way because we decided to shroud it, until a task force defied exactly what we want to do with it, remove it or repurpose it.

PHILLIP: Recently, the City Council of this predominantly white city pledged to tackle its dark past, passing a resolution promising to work toward reparations, but not without controversy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not responsible for what happened 200 years ago. I find this wrong in so many ways, and I strongly oppose it. The black people are not the only race that had been enslaved in America and around the world.

PHILLIP: But it's not just slavery, which the city apologized for when it passed the resolution. It is also something far more recent.

PRISCILLA NDIAYE ROBINSON, ASHEVILLE RESIDENT: Before urban renewal was implemented, all down the street where home owners.

PHILLIP: Urban renewal, which many black Americans called urban removal, played out in Asheville and cities all across the country in the 1950s and 60s.

ROBINSON: The red of the areas that we're acquisition by Asheville Housing Authority, those are properties, homes and businesses that were taken, so however you want to put it.

PHILLIP: So, all of these are parts that would have been owned by --

ROBINSON: Black.

PHILLIP: -- black.

ROBINSON: African Americans, yes.

PHILLIP: Houses poor or blighted neighborhoods like the one Priscilla Robinson grew up in, were acquired by the city, marked to be demolished or renovated.

ROBINSON: I can remember as a young girl, seeing everyone dragging furniture. As I describe it, it was like a wagon trail. People were carrying chairs. It was a community breakdown.

PHILLIP: Black residents were moved out and into public housing, told that they would be able to return, but for many, that promise was never kept. Today, nearly 60 percent of people who live in low income public housing in Asheville are black. Though, black people make up just 12 percent of the city's population, a legacy of urban ruins. And discriminatory policies like redlining.

[07:25:03]

ROBINSON: What we see now is the result, this public housing, what could have been feel home owners up and down Livingston Street.

PHILLIP: The Reparations Resolution is vague, but the city council's hope is that they can create programs that will help balance housing inequity and rebuild generational wealth that was stripped from black residents during urban renewal and in the decades before it, as for cash payments.

SHENEIKA SMITH, ASHEVILLE CITY COUNCIL: The language in the resolution did not directly speak to cash payments, but it did not exclude that as an option.

PHILLIP: That's the part that has made reparations a flashpoint in Washington.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I don't think reparations for something that happened 250 years ago for whom none of us currently living or responsible is a good idea.

PHILLIP: Yet cities like Asheville, Evanston, Illinois and Providence, Rhode Island are facing the controversy head on.

MAYFIELD: As white people, we wake up Every day and benefit from the systems that exist, that keep people of color at an economic and educational and health disadvantage, and give us a straighter track in the world. Our world in this country is built for white people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: Ultimately, what Asheville decides to do is going to hold some lessons not just for other cities looking to do similar things, but national lawmakers who are looking to address historic inequalities and not just through cash payments also through some of these long term programs that are aimed at the economic and social well-being of black Americans.

And Victor, I spoke to an expert this a week who, you know, who told me that the idea of property rectifying the loss of generational wealth through property could be a real game changer when it comes to addressing some of these issues for black Americans.

BLACKWELL: Yes, this is not a conversation that is limited to several centuries ago when the woman you spoke with talked about the image that stays with her of people dragging furniture as in her lifetime. And the urban renewal story as you pointed out, is not limited to Asheville. That impacts families across this country and the lack of and loss of potential generational wealth. Abby, thank you so much for that story and I hope people share it on social media, online.

Healthcare workers on the frontline, let's talk more about the pandemic. We're going to speak with a representative of the largest nurses' union in the us about the challenges they are facing.

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[07:31:47]

PHILLIP: This pandemic has taken a serious toll on health care workers around the world. They've risked not only their physical health but also their mental health and well-being to help those who are in need.

And joining me now is Cynthia Butler, a registered nurse at Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Florida. And Jean Ross, a registered nurse, and president of the National Nurses United, the largest union for registered nurses in the United States. Thanks to both of you for joining us this morning.

CYNTHIA BUTLER, REGISTERED NURSE, FAWCETT MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: Thank you.

PHILLIP: Cynthia, I do want to start with you as you are on the front lines of this. What are you seeing in the hospital where you work? We know Florida has become one of the epicenters of this pandemic right now. What is the state of play for you day-to-day?

BUTLER: Thank you for having me here. Thank you for caring. Here in southwest Florida, we're seeing a lot more, as you've know, younger people being tested positive, and people that are symptom-free. And that's -- these people are showing up at the hospital for whatever reason, you know, they may be coming in for anything, for stomach ache. And because they're not having symptoms, they're not normally tested, you know, as they're coming in, you know, in through the E.R.

And then, they come up on the floor and, and then, if they need a procedure or something like that, then, they'll be tested. And then, then, we'll see that they're positive and, you know, usually at that point, you know, they've already, by no fault of their own, exposed other patients and staff members. So, we're seeing a bit of a surge coming into Charlotte County, as well.

PHILLIP: Yes, that sounds like a really terrifying experience for nurses. Cynthia, I mean, when you are in that kind of situation, you've got people coming in for other ailments. They don't know they have coronavirus, maybe they're not even showing the classic symptoms that we've come to expect. Respiratory symptoms, fever.

Do you feel protected? Do you feel like the precautions are in place to protect you even if you don't necessarily have reason to believe that someone coming in for a broken arm might have coronavirus?

BUTLER: No, I don't. Because I think, you know, that this company has -- they have expected the surge. For weeks now, they've been talking about it. And instead of stepping up, you know, their efforts in identifying these cases, they're still doing the same test, you know, screening at the door, and, you know, asking for temperature, short of breath, you know. If you have been out of the country. When that's really not applicable anymore.

[07:35:12]

BUTLER: And though they should be having more, you know, PPE, it seems like they're rationing again. You know, if you're working on the COVID unit, you know, you have one gown that you have to go from one person under investigation to another person under investigation. To each room, and then, you only take it off after you've been in a positive room.

Meanwhile, you know, one person might turn up negative and the other person might turn up positive. So, now you cross-contaminated people. And they don't give all the nurses n95s.

I asked for one. I asked for two, a matter of fact, but most nurses on the medical floors are wearing only surgical masks. So, these people may be coming in and then, you know, go to have a procedure, meanwhile, they've spoken, you know, dealt with the C&As and the nurses that are just wearing regular masks. Then -- and then, at that point when they turn up positive, it's already too late.

PHILLIP: Yes. Jean, you know, back in Washington there's a lot of discussion about what to do in the next stimulus bill. National Nurses United is calling for the passage of the -- of the HEROES Act, which was passed in the House of Representatives, but, you know, faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

What do you need in terms of funding to protect nurses in terms of PPE? And is, is what is in the HEROES Act even sufficient in your view to meet those needs?

JEAN ROSS, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: If they allow the HEROES Act to be passed, we can deal with it. The two things that are especially important to us are, number one, ensuring that we get the PPE and other medical supplies that we need to keep us safe, in order to care for the patients. And a steady supply of it.

And this can be ensured through this HEROES Act with a medical supply response coordinator, who will ensure that the coordination at the government, the federal government level, is transparent and coordinates all aspects so that we get the equipment that we need where we need it most.

And a second thing that's essential for us is to make sure that OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, sets a temporary standard for all employees at this point so that employers do not do what Cynthia was talking about. Keep the supplies under lock and key. Make sure that we get them where we need them, and then, it's the proper type of equipment.

And also, that employers ensure that employees are taught exactly how to use the equipment. And that -- then, I think we could get by.

PHILLIP: Yes. Just the fact that we are still having this conversation so many months into this pandemic, we can't provide PPE for medical workers like the two of you is, I think, really a sad state of affairs.

But Cynthia Butler and Jean Ross, thank you both for joining us this morning.

ROSS: You're welcome.

BUTLER: Thank you for having me.

BLACKWELL: We got three major storms that expected to impact the U.S. and the Caribbean in the next coming days by major. Maybe not by the classification, but the impact could be big. Flooding, strong winds. We got a live report next.

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[07:43:32]

BLACKWELL: We got three tropical systems that are threatening the U.S. and the Caribbean this morning. Tropical Storm Hanna is getting stronger, it's expected to become a Category 1 hurricane. That's, at least, by the time it makes landfall in southern Texas sometime today.

PHILLIP: So, let's go to CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar for the latest. Allison, what are we seeing out there?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. So, the storm is strengthening. It's at 70 miles per hour sustained winds right now. Keep in mind, that's only four miles per hour off from being a Category 1 storm. So we're not that far.

It's still continuing to strengthen moving west at about nine miles per hour. We do anticipate that it will get to a Category 1 strength by the time it makes landfall this afternoon, local time in Texas.

We have hurricane warnings out and tropical storm warnings surrounding that. A target point really being between Corpus Christi and the Port Mansfield area for those hurricane warnings.

Hurricane hunters are out flying in the storm right now, just picking up a wind, again, about 70 miles per hour. This is really going to be key to let us know has it strengthened up to a Category 1 yet, or does it still need a few more hours to continue to strengthen before it makes landfall?

You're already seeing some of those outer rain bands begin to push into not only Texas but even areas of Louisiana getting some heavy rain bands. Both of those states will continue to see heavy rain off and on throughout the day today.

The heaviest will be across portions of south Texas. Widespread amounts, three to five inches of rain, but there will be some spots they could pick up eight, nine, even 10 inches of rain before this system finally does move out.

[07:45:07]

CHINCHAR: You also have storm surge warnings up and down the coast here. The peak, again, kind of being around that Corpus Christi and Rockport area of three to five feet. And again, potential for some tornadoes and even waterspouts is possible.

But again, guys, Abby, Victor, this is one of four systems that we are watching. Three have names, the fourth one just coming off the coast of the Africa has about a 50 percent chance of getting a name in the next five days.

BLACKWELL: And we know you will watch it for us. Allison Chinchar, thanks so much.

CHINCHAR: Thanks.

PHILLIP: And still to come, we have been hearing from teachers and administrators about school re-openings, but the people most affected, students, how do they feel about it?

We'll talk to one Houston student who wants to be more involved in the decision-making process, up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIP: Now, for this week's "FOOD AS FUEL", CNN's Lisa Drayer has a look at non-dairy ice cream options.

LISA DRAYER, CNN HEALTH CONTRIBUTOR: If you love ice cream but can't have dairy, good news, you have plenty of options these days.

Frozen desserts made from soy, almonds, cashew, and coconut milk have gone mainstream and can taste as delicious as the real thing. If you're watching your weight or concerned about heart health, you can find options that fit within your daily calorie and fat budgets.

For instance, this soy milk dessert has only 120 calories and zero grams of saturated fat per serving. But not all non-dairy treats are created equal and they may not be any healthier than the traditional version.

Take coconut milk-based desserts. Generally speaking, they're higher in saturated fat which raises bad cholesterol. So, pay attention to labels. Look for those with less than 200 calories, 16 grams of sugar, and three grams of saturated fat per serving.

And keep an eye on portion sizes. They're typically only half a cup or about the size of a light bulb.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:51:25]

PHILLIP: This week, the CDC release new guidelines on how to reopen schools safely this fall. But the nation's top disease expert, says it's not a good idea to force all teachers to come back and teach in person.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, says schools -- school officials need to look at the rate of COVID-19 transmission in their communities before making a decision about in-person instruction. This comes as some school districts are requiring all teachers to go back to the classroom unless they have a doctor's note.

Now, let's bring in Jennifer Hamad, a student representative with the Houston Independent School District and a rising senior at Houston Heights High School. Her high school is reopening with virtual learning this fall, but she's encouraging the district to have a year- long plan before reopening.

Jennifer, thank you for being with us this morning. Look, you have taken on --

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JENNIFER HAMAD, SPEAKER, HOUSTON INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: Thank you so much --

PHILLIP: Yes. So, you're taking on a huge issue here. You are one of the kids that would have to go back to school at some point under this plan. The district plans to phase in in-person school after six weeks. But parents can disregard the in-person start dates and keep their kids at home all semester or all year. But you're pushing for kids to weigh in on this plan before they're finalized.

Why do you think that's important? Why are you, you know, putting that out there as an important thing today?

HAMAD: Actually, for a number of reasons as to why we are supporting that as student, parents, and teachers. But we -- one thing that we did find that was quite alarming in our survey, we conducted statistic -- statistical analysis on the data that we collected.

And we actually found some disconcerting relationships, and that is that disadvantaged families. Those who don't have access to child care, technology at home, or maybe even meals are on more likely to send their children to school as they feel compelled and obligated by their circumstances.

And so, we don't want this, you know, idea. You know, it sounds really, really nice to say we're providing a choice to families to send their students to school -- back to school in-person or not.

But truly, you know, that's more of an ostensible or superficial, you know, idea at best. And it's not really, you know, that real. Because, you know, this idea providing a choice actually exploits the circumstances of disadvantaged families.

And we see right now, just in Houston, in our (INAUDIBLE) system that their hospitals are being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. And so, we know that it is disproportionately affecting our low-income families.

And it's also really, really important to note that, you know, the classroom environment that we know, love, and remember can now possibly be replicated in the current circumstances.

Because, you know, with this newfound focus on social distancing, you know, the beauty of in-person instruction is being able to collaborate, interact, and be close to your teachers and peers.

But with this now, you know, it's going to strip that away from in- person learning. And so, you know, there's no -- that's going to minimize the additional benefit of doing in-person instruction.

The other thing is that, you know, in-person instruction is ultimately going to be interrupted when you get, you know, infections. You know, with be it within teachers or with students.

And so, you know, you're going to have to close down schools and that's right now in our protocols within HISD. And so, we know that the school year is going to get disrupted for these students.

So, whereas virtual learning is resistant to fluctuations in COVID-19, in-person instruction is not.

PHILLIP: Right. HAMAD: And so, you know, when you really think about it, in-person instruction is more, you know, disruptive, dangerous, and also not conducive for learning.

PHILLIP: Right.

HAMAD: That's -- it's not really going --

PHILLIP: Yes. We only have a couple of seconds left. You're in high school. You're obviously making a decision that will allow -- force you to be away from your friends. What is that going to be like for you?

[07:55:00]

HAMAD: Well, it really, you know, when we think about it, as students, I think, the way we should be remembered as a generation is not that we were affected by COVID-19, but rather, you know, how we responded to it, how we learned to group from each other, how we adapted.

PHILLIP: Right.

HAMAD: And so, you know, it's really -- as far as I want to protect my fellow teachers and my fellow students.

PHILLIP: Right.

HAMAD: And so, that above all, you know, showing love for each other is caring for each other, and their health -- and your -- and the health of your fellow students and teachers. And so, that comes above all.

PHILLIP: Thank you. Thanks, Jennifer. We were out of time, but thank you for being with us and good luck to you this year.

HAMAD: OK. Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: We have more in the next hour of your NEW DAY. We'll be right back.

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